Spider-Man is one of the few superheroes to have a string of decent games, and that’s largely because when implemented properly, he’s just as fun to travel with as it is to defeat villains and thugs. None of Spidey’s games have been flawless, and Web of Shadows is no different, but being independent of a movie license drastically reduces the blemishes by allowing Treyarch to use assets that never made an appearance in the films – like the S.H.I.E.L.D. forces that are currently occupying New York City.
Web of Shadows’ opening act throws Spider-Man straight into the action. S.H.I.E.L.D. forces occupy New York and combat a symbiote army. After finding Mary Jane it becomes clear that their relationship is on the rocks. MJ is upset that Peter is using his symbiote suit, and while they argue a shadowy figure extends its tendril, envelops Spidey, and the screen goes dark. At this point the game flashes back to four days in the past when Venom attacks Spider-Man, ultimately loses, and transfers part of the symbiote to Spider-Man. This is great from a gameplay perspective because it marries Spidey’s web-slinging and swinging and Hulk’s ability to throw cars at whoever he wants. The setup effectively draws players into the narrative and the use of flashback gives the player a huge setpiece battle to look forward to.
Web of Shadows’ combat system manages to be both accessible and deep, which keeps it entertaining for both casual and more skilled players. It’s possible to pull off gorgeous and powerful moves by hitting random buttons, but the combat system also allows a skilled player to counter most enemy attacks and twist the encounter to his favor. Of all the moves, Spider-Man’s web strike is the most satisfying which allows the player to zip up to an enemy, kick off of him, and do it all over again. Just like Spider-Man ought to, it is possible to complete most encounters without touching the ground. Combat upgrades come with an RPG addition – Spider-Man accrues experience points from combat encounters and those experience points can be spent on various combat upgrades.
Spider-Man games need to really nail two things: combat and swing mechanics. Combat is great, and thankfully swing mechanics are good, too. The only negative point regarding swinging is that Spidey’s webs can attach to the city’s invisible ceiling, and that feels like a downgrade from Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. What the swing mechanic really conveys though, is an awesome sense of speed. Particularly, chasing villains through the city is visceral and satisfying.
Spider-Man Web of Shadows is the Spider-Man game that players deserve. It’s fast, the combat is fun, and being detached from the movies plots allows Web of Shadows to tell a story and create missions that actually affect that story instead of relegating significant portions of the game to repetitive side missions.
Pros: great sense of speed, fun and acrobatic combat
Cons: webs attach to the sky
Plays Like: Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3
ESRB: T – if the movies or cartoons are okay the Web of Shadows is appropriate